Thursday, March 22

Ultralight Packing - Relevancy to the task in hand

Some interesting thoughts from Roman on his blog Lighthiker's World spinning out from some recent podcasts.

Weird Darren has already posted some thoughts on the ultralight debate, and I can see how the theme arose after listening to the Lowe Alpine rep explain the company's approach to their product range in the TGO Show#10 podcast.

I listened to it on the way to the recent Outdoors Show, and my feeling at the time was that LA had carefully chosen their target audience when looking at the possibility of a lightweight product range. I could agree with the approach, and their reasoned arguments. But it felt at times a little too much like protecting their position in their marketplace, not ignoring the lightweight approach, but also not something that they supported.

I'm semi thinking of pack replacement sometime this year, so at the show I took the time to look at the Lowe Alpine gear amongst other offerings. And make no mistake its fantastic stuff. More like the size and shape I 'm considering. But still much heavier than I'm prepared to accept at the moment.

Now I'm definitely not an ultralight purist. My gear has to keep taking the knocks involved with using public transport travel over long distance. And believe me, having to keep moving a pack on the British Rail luggage racks is a tough old test. Especially if someone decides to do it when I'm not keeping my beady eye on its location. Easy to happen at major station changes.

The new materials are up to it, but overall pack protection is one of the drawbacks of lightening the load.

Furthermore I can see LA have their own established customers to please, alongside any potential new customer base.

So for present the jury is out whilst I continue to get my hands on kit for real.

At the end of the day it's not how light a pack is, nor how durable. But will it carry my different load types comfortably, and how much compromise should I make to achieve what I need from the pack?

My no-namer brand (courtesy of the Outdoor Shop many years ago) has plenty of life left yet, I've customised it to my needs, and it's been a great support over a number of difficult terrains. I'm sure I can get some further weight reduction, due to the pack advances since I bought it.

But an important note I've spotted with many of the lightweight packs is a maximum load limit. Not sure I can be that disciplined.

I'm only going to buy the one pack. And out on the hills the type of pack is not going to change during the trip itself. And like my current pack I hope to establish a long and happy partnership with it over many years.

So a balance is called for, and that tends, like any good negotiation, to involve some give and take. Meanwhile I keep looking and reading other's opinions.

And returning to an old theme of mine .........there continues to be a developing synergy between podcast & blog media with one often sparking the other into further thoughts and observations, building on the initial ideas, and taking them further.

There's a limit to what a podcast can say in the time available, but a lot of ground is covered by the very nature of verbal communication. As any of my blogging colleagues may have recently observed, stuff a mike into someone's face and the brain can at times turn to mush, despite the owners's best attempts otherwise and a sympathetic interviewer.

A blog post aims for a more tailored approach, covering less overall ground, but with more time for the commentator to refine the thoughts and make the necessary points. Hopefully with some succinctness.

And at that point this post has gone on way too long! Night all.


Very good observations, John. I really got a bit angry after listening to all three podcasts in a row which led me to my post. But of course LA and Gregory have a certain view about their buyers and they produce what they think will sell. And the same applies to the ULAs and Granite Gears of this world.
But that underlying tone like...if it is not as comfortable (=more weight) and durable (=more weight) as our products you will not carry your pack happily made me...
And the guy from LA even mentioned that they could produce a very lightweight pack but noone would buy it. Certainly true if he thinks that their customers carry 15kg+ in their packs. And at the end both companies produce for the big market and are not niche producers but I think they've gotten some feedback from their buyers so they now partially jump on the lightweight bandwagon but half-way at most.
And at the end as you pointed out you need that one pack that fits 90% of your needs. For some this might be one form MLD, ULA or Gregory or LA. But it is an individual choice and I don't want to be put in the non-comfortable and potentially dangerous corner by carrying a lightweight bag from the Gregorys and Lowes.
i reckon theres more to come on this theme yet Roman
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